Over the last several years, Vertigo has revived several forgotten anthology titles with good results: Strange Adventures, Mystery in Space, The Witching Hour and Time Warp. With Strange Sports Stories, Vertigo once again dips into comics history, drafting a lineup of heavy hitters and utility players for odd tales of sports and science fiction coming together in unexpected ways.
In Red One, the Soviet Union sends a bombshell Russian soldier to infiltrate American society under the guise of a "real-life superhero." Her stated mission is to dissuade Cold War Americans from looking for Commies in every corner, but her true calling may be to help them take ownership of their sexuality.
With the hook it has, Red One could go in so many different directions: paranoid spy thriller, over-the-top action comic, political drama. Instead, the new book by Xavier Dorison, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson takes a route you never would have expected: a satirical look at America's obsession with sex, religion, heroes, and fame.
The imaginary friend isn't a super-prevalent trope in comics, but it's been deconstructed enough in some very good comics that it's hard to believe that something shockingly new can be done with it. Morrison, Gaiman, and Moore are all fans of the device; Jamie McKelvie's Suburban Glamour, God's appearances in Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, and more.
Despite the territory that's already been covered, Shaun Simon and Tyler Jenkins have hit a hidden deposit in Neverboy, in which an unyoked imaginary friend takes drugs to stay in the real world. It's a clever idea, and it's definitely never been done before, but where Neverboy really strikes gold is when the drugs run out.
One of the most pleasant surprises of the New 52 relaunch was Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato's run on The Flash. With clever, Will Eisner-inspired titles pages and chaotic compositions that emphasized movement rather than structure, Manapul's layouts were impressive without being superfluously...flashy. Eye-popping, complex designs weren't slathered across every page; they were saved for the moments when it best served the story. So it's not too much of a surprise that his work on Detective Comics looks completely different.
Where The Flash was colorful and kinetic, the current story in Detective Comics is a dark mystery, and appropriately, Manapul takes a different approach.
You don't have to look too hard to see the prevalence of difficult father-son relationships in the work of Jason Aaron. In Scalped with R.M. Guera, Dashiell Bad Horse was adrift in a sea of father figures, unable to choose his own path and incapable of avoiding the same fates that befell the father who left him. In 2014, Aaron launched Southern Bastards with Jason Latour, about a conflicted man who returns to the home of his dead father, a legendary lawman; and Men of Wrath with Ron Garney, is about a father-to-be on the run from his own dad, a hired killer.
Despite the prevalence of the topic in comics, Aaron has carved out his own niche when it comes to father-son relationships, with an unflinching perspective that rings truer than most.
In Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson's Ei8ht, a time-traveler named Joshua crash-lands in the Meld, an illogical place where past, present, and future seem to collide. With frequent jumps back and forth, messages from the past, and flashbacks to the future, it could be very difficult for readers to know when they are, if not for Albuquerque's ingenious use of color.
In Ryan Ferrier and Devaki Neogi's Curb Stomp, a gang of five women called the Fever protect their home turf from outside crews, stemming the flow of guns and drugs into Old Beach. When two rival gangs make a deal to push them out of their home, leader Machete Betty makes a decision that she regrets, pushing the Fever into a war they wanted nothing to do with. Comparisons with The Warriors are inevitable, but Curb Stomp stands on its own as a story that transcends the exploitation genre.
'Thumbnail' is a new recurring feature on ComicsAlliance in which we invite our writers to reflect on comic book details that deserve a little extra attention, whether it's a favorite character, and artistic choice, or a striking page. For this installment, John Parker looks at Criminal artist Sean Phillips' unusual affinity for beautiful and realistically rendered cars.
If you're getting a sense of deja vu right now, that's because you actually have read this article before. Right before the latest volume of Batman: Black & White began back in 2013, ComicsAlliance published a list of the ten best stories in the celebrated anthology series. But the fourth volume was really, really good, and included some stories strong enough to be considered among the very best.
Making a new version of that same list with just a few replacements would be cheating you, and require me to read my own writing (ecch). So instead, we're just going to stick with the 'ten best' thing. Here are the highlights from the latest volume of Black & White, and a few that were barely edged out of the first list. Will there be another version of this article after the next volume? You bet your ass. We're gonna stay here until we get this right, people.
Hollywood just can't keep its grubby little hands off of our stuff. Last week it was announced that Sony Pictures snapped up the rights to Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen's Descender well before the book's March publication, a practice becoming more common. This type of announcement may cause consternation among some, but you have to take it on a case-by-case basis: If anything Mark Millar writes gets a deal before publication, please, be offended; in all other circumstances, reserve judgment until a "professional" receives an advance copy and dictates your opinion to you. (This is my new persona: hated.)
Descender, on its way from Image in March, is epic, intelligent, and full of heart, and it looks like Sony was right on the money for once.